"What I hear most often is that people just aren’t motivated to exercise. But here’s the thing about motivation: it’s a crock."
I know, I know, it’s not a popular view, but I always say motivation is like a bad boyfriend – never there when you need it. It’s like any other emotion – it’s fickle and will come and go. That means it ends up being a sneaky excuse for not exercising.
But let me ask you: when was the last time you had to psych yourself up to brush your teeth? Never, right? That’s because it’s a habit you’ve created by doing it consistently, every day (well, I hope so, anyway!)
You don’t have to be motivated to exercise, you just have to turn up and do it. And the more you just do it, the quicker you’ll lay it down as a habit.
Think of it as beating a path through a jungle – at first it’s hard to find your way, but the more you walk it, the smoother and easier it gets.
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So instead of letting your exercise slip this season, start beating that path a at-home workout. All you need is half an hour and a square metre of floor.
This helps you get fit fast – you’re able to keep pushing through because you move between aerobic and anaerobic training, and working upper and lower body parts. But the best thing is, these workouts keep your mind so busy it doesn’t have time to wander.
This kind of training can burn through truckloads of kJs and get you into killer condition fast. Do it 3-4 times a week and on other days go for a run, swim, bike ride or do some weight training.
To minimise boredom, try these top tips
Picture successVisualising yourself hitting all your goals is a surefire confidence builder, reports the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. Here’s why: visualisation may create patterns in your brain for feeling proud, calm and assured, making it easier to tap into those feelings, says study author Dr Sandra Short.
Shock your bodyMost of the time your body needs a break between workouts (it’s during rest that big changes actually happen). But a few times a year, schedule back-to-back boot-camp style workouts.
“Overloading muscles will keep them guessing, helping you break through any plateau,” explains exercise physiologist Tom Holland. Work every muscle three or four days in a row, performing sets with little or no rest in between.
Slow downAdjusting the tempo of an exercise will stimulate the muscle differently, says personal trainer Maren Piefer. “The longer your muscles experience tension, the harder they work.”
While performing an exercise, count to two as you raise the weight, and count to four as you lower it. You’ll spend more time in the lengthening phase of muscle contraction, which is more challenging and brings better results: a higher kJ burn during and after your workout.
Split the differenceDo a full rep of an exercise, then do just half of it at the hardest part of the move.
“You sneak in extra reps and increase muscle tension in virtually the same amount of time,” Piefer says. “It also pumps lots of blood into the muscles, which is excellent for enhancing definition.”
Step it upSpeed work isn’t good only in cardio. “Increasing speed during any exercise burns more kJs,” Piefer says. “It also boosts power, improving athleticism.”
To fully tax muscles, Piefer suggests fast reps of a body weight exercise after a weighted version. You’ll use different muscles and break down more muscle fibre – that’s good.
Break it upTo make a tough workout seem easier, “Break it into manageable parts: warm up first, then set an easy goal of 1km or something doable,” says sports scientist and trainer Dr Abby Ruby. “Don’t worry about minute 45 at minute 10.”
Max musclesIf you only focus on exercises that work a single muscle or muscle group, try replacing with compound movements like squats, lunges and push-ups, which work multiple muscles in less time. Genius.
Banish the scaleThe scale measures water and muscle too, so it’s not a great indicator of fat loss. For a better progress report, place fingers on abs and inhale deeply so it expands. As you exhale, contract abs and push fingertips against your hard abdominal wall. Now pinch.
“You’re holding pure fat,” says Dr Tom Seabourne, author of Athletic Abs. Do this daily, 30 mins before your workout, and you’ll find you rarely skip a session.